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How to Check a Ladder is Safe

How to Check a Ladder is Safe

People die, and others sustain injuries from ladder accidents yearly. Unfortunately, deaths and injuries caused by ladders have drastically increased in the last ten years, according to a recent study. As that’s the case, I’ve decided to share tips on how to check a ladder is safe to secure your life and health.

Ladders have been used for centuries, and you may be figuring out what has increased the accidents. I’ll answer honestly; ladders are simple equipment that people tend to take for granted and ignore their usage precautions.

Ladders should be regularly inspected and maintained for safety. And this brings another question that may linger in your mind. How often should a ladder be inspected? This article will answer all these questions. Occupation and safety health administration (OSHA) recommends ladder inspection every time before use.

Even when carrying out simple domestic chores, you shouldn’t skip inspecting your ladder first.

How to Check a Ladder is Safe

black metal ladder leaning on white wall

There are three methods you would check if a ladder is safe for use. Let’s take a look before getting into a detailed portable ladder inspection checklist;

1. Detailed Inspection

The employer or the ladder owner organizes it by hiring a competent person to inspect the ladder visually. All damaged parts are repaired or replaced during the maintenance exercise. Additionally, maintenance data is prepared and stored for future records.

2. Pre-Use Inspection

It’s carried out by users or workers every time they intend to use the ladder. It entails checking and ensuring all ladder parts are functional and the equipment meets the OSHA requirements.

3. Pre-Purchase Inspection

It’s inspecting the ladder before purchase. At this point, you should check the stickers to confirm your ladder of choice is laboratory checked and approved for safety. Secondly, to check if all the parts are functional.

When inspecting the ladder, you should ensure;

  • It’s suitable for the work.
  • All stickers with the manufacturer’s instructions are intact.
  • Up-to-date maintenance records.
  • All the set-up pieces of equipment are available.
black A-frame ladder
Indoor ladder

Portable Ladder Inspection Checklist

As stated by OSHA, all ladders must be inspected before use. But which key parts should you regularly inspect? All are shared below;

  • All Ladders
 Key partsDescriptionHow to fix
1.RungsThe bars that run from one rail to the other, are installed in a certain pattern to support the user’s feet and hands while climbing up or down the ladder.Bent, broken, missing, or sharp edges should be fixed or replaced. If they are loose, use a wrench to tighten their bolts. Clean any slipping substance like grease or oil.
2.Ladder feetThey support the ladder and offer traction from the ground.Damaged or missing feet should be replaced or fixed. Clean the mud, oils, and debris for they cause the ladder to slide.
3.RailsThey are bars that run from top to bottom to hold other parts like the rungs.Ensure no cracks if they are made of aluminum or fiberglass. For wooden rails, check any split parts and sand them using wood sandpaper and paint varnish. For metals, clean rust, and corrosion, then repaint.
4.Nails, screws, and boltsThey attach the ladder joints. For example, the rungs are joined to the rails by bolts. Wooden ladder parts are joined using screws and nailsTighten loose nails, screws, or bolts using a claw hammer, screwdriver, or a wrench, respectively. If any is missing, has rust, or corroded, replace it.
5.LabelsLabels are attached to the ladders by the manufacturer to guide the user on how to use, maintain, and the recommended weight the ladder can handle.Ensure the labels are readable. If the labels are missing, refer to the user manual, print the necessary details, and stick the information to the ladder.

How to use step ladders safely

  •  Step Ladders
 Key partsDescriptionHow to fix
1.SpreadersThey connect the front rails pair and the rear rails pair. Spreaders can fold or spread to adjust the ladder feet.Clean any rust or corrosion and repaint. Replace broken or bent spreaders.
2.Spreader locksAfter adjusting the front and rear rails, the spreader locks ensure the feet don’t slide inward or outward once set. Check and replace if broken or corroded.
3.Front and rear feetThe front feet are longer than the rear feet because the user climbs using the front side. It’s designed to enhance stability.Ensure both rear rails are of uniform length and the front rails are uniform too.
4.Top capIt’s the upper platform the user places the tools while working. Some step ladders connect the rear and the front feet pair with hinges.Keep the top cap stable by tightening the screwsGrease the top cap hinges.
5.Rail bracesThey support the rungs from underneath to make them withstand the higher weight.Clean the rail braces and tighten their bolts. If broken or bent, replace
  • Extension Ladders
 Key partsDescriptionHow to fix
1.Rung locksAfter sliding it to the desired height, the user locks the fly with the rung locks Inspect the rung locks and ensure they are functional
2.Slide railThe path that the fly rails follow when sliding up or downGrease the slide rail. Check if broken or bent and repair it.
3.Rope and pulley systemA rope rotates the pulley to slide the fly up or down through the slide rail.Replace rotten or worn-out rope. Inspect the pulley for free play and fix.

How to raise an extension ladder

FAQ’s on Inspecting Ladders’ Safety

How Do You Secure a Ladder?

Set up your ladder feet on a firm and level surface and ensure it leans on a stable surface on the top. You can secure your ladder with a strong rope to the nearby solid anchor on the top area for more safety.

What is the Biggest Cause of Ladder Accidents?

The biggest cause of ladder accidents is human error. You’ll be safe if you follow OSHA and the manufacturer’s guidelines when using your ladder.

What is the Belt Buckle Rule?

The belt buckle rule states that you keep your body between the ladder rails and don’t try to over-reach the sides.

However, before practicing the belt buckle rule, carry out how to check a ladder is safe tips before climbing up. 

References and Citations:

  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE): Safe use of ladders and stepladders
  • Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS): Ladders – Inspection
  • The Ladder Association: Inspecting a ladder –
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